Whatever happened love, joy, and good cheer?
If you’ve been caught in the crosshairs of the War on Christmas, I have news. You’ve been duped. Bamboozled. Had the wool pulled over your eyes. There is no War on Christmas, but there is a war on everything that isn’t Christmas (namely, all the other holidays sharing the month of December).
Still, ranks of well intentioned but misinformed believers are engaged in a fierce battle. Their plaintive rallying cry is their desire to “put the Christ back in Christmas.” Some picket big box stores, insisting they replace the all inclusive “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas” in each and every advert. Or, they take to the airwaves, reminding believers that wishing their hairdressers or children’s teachers “Happy Holidays” is a sign of persecution or cultural brainwashing.
During this season of love and light, do these soldiers ever question what they’re fighting for? Bullying the local superstore into using the word “Christmas” does not seem likely to make the Ancient of Days happier on the occasion of his birth. Does Almighty God need his name plastered all over stores that encourage over spending, proffer low wages, or who treat their employees with disrespect?
“That’s all beside the point,” huff believers. It’s frighteningly easy for charismatic leaders to lather up their flocks, then watch them descend down slippery dystopian slopes. Into worlds where Christmas and religious freedoms have all but disappeared and the baby Jesus has been kidnapped from the manger. Every last Who silenced, even the Grinch’s faithful dog lying dead in the abyss. And it all began with wishing each other “Happy Holidays.”
But wait, interject the Happy Holidayers, all is not lost! Wishing each other “Happy Holidays” takes nothing away from Christ. It’s too cumbersome to wish your neighbor a “Happy Yalda,” only to discover they are not practicing Zoroastrians. Or to send your boss a “Merry Kwanzaa” card when they’re actually celebrating a joyous Bodhi Day.
“Happy Holidays” is the elegant, yet simple answer to honoring the many faiths which hold spiritually significant celebrations in December. A phrase of inclusion, designed not to cast down any one Ascended Master, but rather to elevate and make whole all of God’s children. An invoked greeting of joy and goodwill, gathering and building upon a rising tide of merriment. All voices, faiths and beliefs can then ring out in unison, “Happy Holidays!”
So before we allow each other to retreat any farther into separate camps of belief, with Christians accusing the other side of stealing the very hay from the baby Jesus’ manger and everyone else sniggering on the sidelines, I propose a cease fire.
To meet at this clearing, let’s begin with a basic understanding of a warrior’s heart. Believers who fight the War on Christmas are fighting for a cause larger than themselves. They wage war, not because they are fearless, but because they are terrified. That if they don’t engage, their way of life will be forever altered. That their children will grow up in a society devoid of anything worth fighting for.
These good hearts could be directed towards wars on other fronts, and many already are. Wars on poverty, bigotry and intolerance. But if gearing up to fight any war, especially in the name of the Prince of Peace, it would be wise to choose our causes carefully, and to mindfully check the names carved on our hearts before entering the fray.
Fear. Misinformation. A winding road paved with good intentions. All foundations of senseless wars waged throughout the ages. Have we grown any savvier?
Perhaps it is too much to ask for a ceasefire when both sides are so deeply entrenched. A stopgap solution might be for moderates to join in the battle. For me, this then becomes a personal fight, beginning with my a battle to hold on to my faith in those who label themselves as Christians (because I happen to be one of them). As Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Maybe I can tend the wounded, reminding them that Christ’s birth is a season of peace, and that he loved making everyone feel welcome around his table. I’ll also remind myself that to judge is a sin.
There are other forms of resistance, small and large. I’ll fight for a return to sanity, hope and giving. Strive for moments of balance and peace within my family, all during a season which ought to be marked by an overflow of lovingkindness.
Christ, the essence of love, came out of a desire to heal all of mankind. Not just those who attend church or who have Christmas trees in their living rooms. As mature, adult believers, our gift to the one we profess to worship can be a sincere, sustained effort to embrace the minority and the majority. Gifts of reconciliation, peace, harmony and generosity.
In a world divided by crosses and stars, symbols and traditions, I’ll teach my children to reject chaos and bigotry. Perhaps by sowing these seeds, the next generation will put a permanent end to this War on Christmas, and will go on to fight battles far more deserving of their time and energy.
My sincerest wish goes out to everyone, in this broken world we hope one day will be made whole, for a very Happy Holiday season. May you and yours be blessed with peace and understanding.
Photo: tony’s pics/Flickr